Below are brief reviews of comics released on August 3rd, 10th and 17th (except for Rom #1, which came out July 27th). You can read earlier reviews here.
I dropped this series a few months ago, but the premise of the annual, Ms. Marvel + Fanfic, required my picking this up. The little “fanfic” stories about Ms. Marvel are cute and a clever way to see a bunch of different artists’ take on Kamala. One story (by Mark Waid and Chip Zdarsky) takes a turn toward MRA revisionist trolling. I am confident this story is meant to make fun of that mentality, but doesn’t have the pay-off necessary to pull off that kind of satire. And the framing story by G. Willow Wilson is really creepy because essentially it ends up being about Phil Coulson catfishing Kamala and Miles. It is a weird thing for a grown man to pretend to be a channel moderator on the internet to facilitate the relationship between two teenagers. Plus, are we to believe Coulson creeps on all superheroes private lives? That’s gross. That makes him a very unlikeable character who is supposed to be charismatic and evoke loyalty. He was a worm of a character in the movies and TV and I guess he remains that way in the comics.
Finally! Finally a good issue with plenty of action and a sense of Wakanda’s struggle and political intrigue. This could have been the second issue. It should have been! Heck, it could have been the first issue, and any necessary exposition could have been filled in later. I feel like maybe I can see Coates comics writing improving as the series goes on (or maybe I am just giddy at having finally enjoyed an issue), but the problem is, it took five issues. Five dragging issues in the middle of a long run might be understandable, but at the beginning of a run getting so much attention is dangerous. I hope the remaining seven issues keep up this momentum. Chris Sprouse’s art is also something of an improvement, even though he is just a fill-in artist, though as usual the comic relies too heavily on page-wide panels, the scourge of modern comics storytelling.
The Flintstones #2 (released 8/10)
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Steve Pugh (w/colors by Chris Chuckry)
I think I made a mistake getting this second issue. I don’t know. I guess this title is still on the bubble. I appreciate the comic’s attempt to critique consumerism and connect it to a kind of primitive understanding of the value of a life well-lived. In a parallel story the local “animism” church (which btw, I think they define animism incorrectly, it does not mean the worship of animals) is having trouble coming up with animals to worship because in classic Flintstones style they keep ending up being perfect consumer products (a bird is a record stylus, a little pink mammoth is a vacuum, etc. . .). It is an interesting play on the intersection of consumerism and religion, and the negotiation of faith required to think these customs and things will make your life better is a potentially smart plot point (it does not seem to be wrapped up this issue, so maybe it will be an ongoing plot?). Despite its potential, there remains something distasteful about this comic that I cannot pinpoint. There’s an empty cynicism that cannot be balanced by Wilma’s speech to Fred that what matters in life are not things, but “being next to someone who loves [you],” so such sentiments end up tumbling into a void. I like the art here quite a bit, but for this satire to work these characters need to be at least as developed at they were in the original cartoon, which I don’t think is asking too much given the source material.
Great issue that uses the mess that is Civil War II to actually explore the local issues in a marginalized community and the interpersonal issues of Luke’s family and friends. For once, Jessica Jones isn’t sitting around just mommying (though she does give Luke a pep talk), and having Iron Fist in jail and a flashback to his Kun Lun days shows the possible range for his character so he is not just comic relief. The issue has a great cliffhanger that makes me want to see Luke kick the ass of everyone on Captain Marvel’s side of the “civil war.” The glaring problem with this issue is that Colleen Wing is drawn with red hair and looking whiter than people at a Greenwich, Connecticut garden party. Other than that, Armentaro’s fill-in art for Sanford Green is pretty seamless.
ROM #1 (released 7/27)
Writers: Christos Gage and Chris Ryall
Artist: David Messina (w/inks by Michele Pasta)
When it comes right down to it, I don’t know why I ever fooled myself into thinking that I wouldn’t at least try the new ROM series from IDW. I think I was discouraged when I saw the mitten hands were gone and the weird 90s-ness of the redesign. And then I read that the final page of the comic has a reveal putting ROM in the same universe as G.I.Joe and the Transformers. . .I had forgotten about the Hasbro-verse that was recently created. It is going to include M.A.S.K (did anyone ever like M.A.S.K. back in the day?) and the Micronauts. . .It felt like a weird choice and then I remembered that the original ROM was in the Marvel Universe and how weird was that? Very! And pleasantly so! There were some nice nods to the original series in this issue, but I am not sure about it. I’m not won over by the art, especially the paneling. Everything feels decontextualized whenever the action begins. One thing in its favor though, I am pretty sure it had more Black characters in this one issue than the entire original ROM series, even if most of them turned out to be Dire Wraith. Still, it looks like this version’s Brandy, a veteran named Darby is a Black woman, so presumably she’ll be around for a while. I am considering starting a new series to take over for when When It WAUGHs Like a Duck ends that will put the current ROM in conversation with the old ROM. Let’s see if I actually do it.
Oh and the issue included a back-up story that I assume was supposed to catch readers up as to recent events in the Hasbro-verse, the coming of the Transformers, the Decepticons killing a billion people on Earth, the dissolution of G.I. Joe, something about Action Man, but it didn’t really help. Instead, it made things feel more confused especially since it doesn’t give ROM a chance to be established before interacting with all the other characters, Even the original ROM took until issue #2 for SHIELD to be mentioned and issue #5 for Doctor Strange to show up (in a dream).
Paper Girls #8 (released 8/3)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Cliff Chiang (w/colors by Matt Wilson)
This comic continues to be a delight. If you like Netflix’s Stranger Things and Dr. Who (or at least what I imagine Dr. Who to be like), then you will love Paper Girls.
Sam Wilson: Captain America #12 (released 8/17)
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: David Acuña
At first I thought this issue was gonna double-down on the anti-police brutality/Black Lives Matter position Sam seemed to be taking at the end of issue #11, and it actually develops a bit on the theme of the marginal position of black superheroes in the Marvel Universe through a flashback to a humiliating encounter with police that Steve Rogers has to rescue Sam from, but ultimately Sam’s attempt to be reasonable with brutal cops only goes to show that respectability politics are bullshit. Ah well, maybe that is part of the lesson here, too. Running parallel to the Brooklyn riot, are a cabal of old white men, Senators, CEOs and Faux News pundits trying to convince Marvel’s resident right-wing white supremacist wing-nut superhero, U.S. Agent, to take out Sam Wilson. I actually like how he rejects the offer at first, but then reportage of the riot changes his mind as it presents Sam in the worst possible light. What I like about this issue is that the power broker white dudes are clearly the bad guys and they are espousing verbatim the rhetoric of the right-wing nationalists and white supremacists of the Trump-supporting variety. What I am realizing I like less with each of these issues is Acuña’s art. I mean, his penciling is mostly fine, but the color palate remains too dark, everything has a muddy look, that is probably not helped by the inking either. BTW, I wrote some about this current arc of Sam Wilson: Captain America here.
Spider-Woman vol. 6, #10 (released 8/17)
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artist: Javier Rodriguez (w/colors by Rachel Rosenberg and inks by Veronica Fish)
I love Jessica Drew and I love this comic, and I wish this could just be a plot arc about Jess and Carol Danvers working out the tensions in their friendship that manifest along ethical or political lines, but it’s directly tied into Civil War II and that weakens it.
This book remains amazingly drawn and packed to the brim with action and intrigue and colorful supporting characters. Good stuff. Oh and the throwback cover with a word balloon is perfect.
This is why we can’t have nice things. I mean, I saw the outcome of the issue coming from the end of the previous issue, and everyone, especially Captain America acts as stupid as a bag of rocks, as if they are incapable of seeing how their very actions will ensure Ulysses’s prediction will come true. Oh, did I mention this is a Civil War II tie-in? What a waste of a great book and well-drawn characters that could explore the notion of destiny a lot better without the meddling hand of the crossover event. The two most recent issues put All-New Wolverine on the bubble. Sad. I will say in the book’s defense, however, that the fight between Laura and (and I’m going to assume evil Hydra agent) Captain America is really well choreographed and drawn.
Wonder Woman vol. 5, #4 (released 8/10)
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Nicola Scott (w/colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.)
Issue #4 continues with the “Year One” story and this issue reinforces my feeling that I may be better off skipping the odd numbered issues that feature “The Lies” storyline and sticking with this strong and touching re-telling of Wonder Woman’s origin. This is an issue that feels perfectly paced and sufficiently packed with events as to make it worth purchasing. Rucka knows most readers already know the origin story, so this version focuses on emotional impact and makes sure to make clear his take on the Amazons as a generous and compassionate society. We know that Diana will win the games to become chosen ambassador to the man’s world, so the issue doesn’t look to create artificial tension where there can be none. Instead, we see the honor she has captured and the bittersweet result of leaving Paradise Island. The characterization of Steve Trevor is pretty good, too. He evinces the right degree of sensitivity and thoughtfulness as to be a believable future love interest for Diana. Oh and the art is beautiful. This series remains on the bubble in terms of my sticking with every issue. I am glad that the alternating storylines makes it easy to skip one if I should decide to.
On the Bubble: Black Panther, The Flintstones, Rom, All-New Wolverine.